In late 2011, a short-lived movement sprang up around the world called Occupy. They claimed that they were the 99% of ordinary people, while a mere 1% live in abundant affluence. The Talmud offers the same equation regarding death. Only 1% of people die naturally, while the other 99% die due to the evil eye (ayin hara)!
What is the evil eye?
Rabbi Jacob Sakili (in his thirteenth century work Toras Hamincha) explains that the evil eye is an eye that desires that which is not his. In other words, the evil eye is caused by jealousy. The eye sees and covets and the jealous impulse then incubates in one’s mind. But how does it affect the other person?
Rabbi Nissim of Gerona explains that the mind and the soul are one and the same. Part of your soul resides inside your body and part of it is outside. When you think evil thoughts about someone else (due to jealousy), your soul has the power to negatively affect that other person. It does so by travelling beyond the confines of your physical body and meddling in the other person’s affairs. Such is the power of the evil eye.
How do you avoid being harmed by the evil eye?
The Torah states, “G-d will charge you with blessing in your silos.” Why does the Torah not say ‘G-d will charge you with blessing in your fields’?
Rabbi Isaac explains: Blessing is only found in something that is hidden from the eye. Similarly they explained in the yeshiva of Rabbi Ishmael: Blessing is only found in something that the eye has no control over.
Many people believe that they can guard themselves from the ‘spell’ of the evil eye by wearing red strings and the like. Maybe they achieve some sort of mystical protection, maybe they don’t – that’s way above my pay-grade.
The Torah teaches us that the best protection from the evil eye is to hide oneself from its clutches. If you show the world everything you’ve got, you can expect that there will be jealous people out there who, consciously or unwittingly, will give you the evil eye.
If instead you avoid ostentation and live your life “hidden from the eye,” then the Almighty can bestow His blessing upon you unimpeded. G-d wants to bless you, but if your neighbour is casting an evil eye upon your lot, G-d’s blessing will not be able to take hold.
G-d wants you to be prosperous and live a good life in this world. Don’t mess up His plans by feeling that you have to brag to everyone. The less you show, the better off you will be. If there’s nobody to cast an evil eye, G-d can provide you with an abundant flow of uninhibited blessing.
Don’t be the 99%! You can be the 1% who is not negatively impacted by the evil eye! All it takes is modesty and discretion and you can have everything you wish for in life!